Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni lurked in deep lakes near present-day Lake Turkana in Kenya (map) between about two and four million years ago.
Fossils of the giant were unearthed in the Lake Turkana Basin in the 1960s and ’70s and stored in the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. The study authors only recently identified the remains as belonging to a new species.
Illustration courtesy Christopher A. Brochu, University of Iowa
According to their research, the ancient animal would’ve resembled a heavyset Nile crocodile, some of which can reach up to 20 feet (6 meters) long.
Other species in the wider category of crocodyliformsâ€”part of a group that includes modern-day alligators, caimans, and moreâ€”are bigger, such as the 40-foot-long (12-meter-long) SuperCroc.
But the newfound behemoth is the biggest known true crocodile, said study leader Christopher Brochu, a paleontologist at the University of Iowa.
The largest living crocodile captured so far is likely Lolong, a 20.3-foot (6.1-meter) long saltwater crocodile discovered in the Philippines in 2011.